Friday, September 28, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1985

"SKELETOR'S DRAGON" | "THE BATTLE OF ROBOTO" | "SPIKOR STRIKES"
"THE STENCH OF EVIL!" | "GRIZZLOR -- THE LEGEND COMES ALIVE!"
"LEECH -- THE MASTER OF POWER SUCTION UNLEASHED!"
"MANTENNA AND THE MENACE OF THE EVIL HORDE!!"
"HORDAK -- THE RUTHLESS LEADER'S REVENGE! | "THE TREACHERY OF MODULOK!"
"THE POWER OF THE EVIL HORDE!"

Writer: Christy Marx
Artists: Larry Houston, Peter Ledger, & Bruce W. Timm
Inks: Charles Simpson & Michael Lee
Letters: Stan Sakai | Editor: Lee Nordling

Following from a set of 1984 minicomic offerings that did their best to hew to the Filmation TV series' continuity (even though that show was still in the development phase when most of the comics were produced), 1985 brings us an odd hybrid of the Filmation universe existing in sort of a parallel world. The comics continue to maintain most of the Filmation trappings, and as we'll see below, even bring in the character of Orko, who originated on the show. As well, the cartoon's character designs continue to be used for the most part. However, 1985's comics also introduce a number of characters to the minicomic world, complete with origins in many instances (which were pretty universally eschewed in '84), even when the same characters were presented with alternative debuts in the animated series.

I'd like to note that the credits I've been presenting for all these minicomic posts are assembled to the best of my ability. Many of the earlier comics, going up through 1985, had no credits at all, while others had only artist signatures on the covers, or occasionally writer/penciler/inker signatures. I've done my best to search online and fill in blanks, but I can't speak to the complete accuracy of these credits. For example, Christy Marx wrote a number of 1985's comics, but there's no way to tell whether she penned every single one -- and in fact it seems pretty likely she did not -- however since no other writers are listed, she's the only one I can mention here even if she wasn't the sole scribe for the year.

Monday, September 24, 2018

SUPERMAN #16

“HE ONLY LAUGHS WHEN I HURT!”
Story & Pencils by: John Byrne | Inking by: Karl Kesel
Coloring by: Tom Ziuko | Lettering by: John Costanza | Editing by: Michael Carlin

The Plot: As bizarre occurrences—soap suds falling from the sky and a popcorn storm in the subway—occur in Metropolis, Lois Lane is kidnapped by a man calling himself the Prankster. In actuality Oswald Loomis, a children’s TV host, the Prankster has perpetrated these strange pranks as a way to gain publicity before his show can be canceled. Superman eventually locates Loomis, rescues Lois, and arrests the villain. However, the Prankster escapes custody, crank-calls Lois, and has a good laugh over the day’s events.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: This is the first appearance of the Prankster post-CRISIS. Though I know nothing about the character’s original incarnation, he at least looks pretty much exactly like I remember from an old Superman storybook I had as a child.

Morgan Edge, president of Galaxy Communications, makes his post-CRISIS debut here. My understanding is that pre-CRISIS, Edge was the head of Intergang, Metropolis’s premiere mob as created by Jack Kirby in the pages of JIMMY OLSEN. It’s also my understanding that pre-CRISIS Intergang was supplied with technology by Darkseid. Here, Edge appears to be a media mogul rather than a crime boss, but we do see that he has a connection with Darkseid at one point when the villain visits him in his office to gloat about how well his plan is going.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

THE UNBOXING - SEPTEMBER 2018

Just one book this month, and it's a volume I'm very pleased to own: THE WEDDING OF CYCLOPS AND PHOENIX hardcover. Some years back, before I started this blog, Marvel released much of this material in a paperback edition, which is still available secondhand (and I reviewed it here). But that didn't stop them from putting out an updated and revised hardcover edition just this month.


I really do intend to get my semi-monthly photo-reviews of X-Men books up and running again in the near future (possibly to kick off 2019), so I won't gush much about this book here and now, other than to say that, while it removes one issue that was in the prior paperback edition (X-MEN ANNUAL #2), it more than makes up for that by filling in a bunch of issues of X-MEN that hadn't yet been collected, along with several other odds and ends -- including the "Bloodties" crossover with AVENGERS, thus making prior editions of that particular book obsolete as well. Plus, it's a hardcover rather than a paperback -- I daresay this is what the initial volume should have been in the first place, but I'm happy Marvel has corrected their prior mistake.

So with this one on the shelf, another Unboxing comes to a close. Catch you in October!

Friday, September 21, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1984

"DRAGON'S GIFT" | "MASKS OF POWER" | “HE-MAN AND THE INSECT PEOPLE”
“SIEGE OF AVION” | “THE OBELISK” | “THE SECRET LIQUID OF LIFE!"
"DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD" | "TEMPLE OF DARKNESS!" | "SLAVE CITY”
"THE CLASH OF ARMS"

Writer: Michael Halperin
Artists: Alfredo Alcala & Larry Houston | Inks: Tod Smith, Michael Lee, & Gerald Forton
Colors: Anthony Tollin & Charles Simpson | Letters: Stan Sakai | Editor: Lee Nordling

1984's minicomics are written by Michael Halperin, the man who was hired by Mattel and Filmation to create a MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE "bible" which informed much of the development of the cartoon series. As a result, these tales hew more closely in the Filmation direction than ever before, in terms of story. The artwork is mixed, on the other hand -- Alfredo Alcala continues to draw extremely literal interpretations of the characters' action figures, though for certain characters he appears to be working off of Filmation model sheets -- while Larry Houston, who draws most of the later stories in the year's run, goes Filmation all the way.

Footnotes in the Dark Horse collection of these tales indicate that they were produced while the cartoon was still in development, which gives some fascinating insight into the lead time involved in crafting the minicomics. These were released with the 1984 line of characters, and they feature lots of not-quite-finalized character designs -- but the TV series itself premiered in the fall of 1983 (and mostly featured the toyline's earlier characters for that first season)! As a result, the minicomics include characters who would not even debut in the cartoon until the second season (such as Buzz-Off, Mekaneck, and Fisto) fighting alongside "prototype" versions of Man-At-Arms and Teela.

Monday, September 17, 2018

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #438 & ACTION COMICS #598

“…THE AMAZING BRAINIAC”
Writer: John Byrne | Penciller: Jerry Ordway | Inker: John Beatty
Letterer: Albert T. de Guzman | Colorist: Anthony Tollin | Editor: Michael Carlin

The Plot: While at the circus with Cat, her son Adam, and Jimmy, Clark Kent changes to Superman to stop a rampaging elephant. Soon after, the circus psychic, Brainiac, manifests telekinetic powers and an alternate personality, and begins to wreak havoc. Superman stops him, and he is placed into medical care.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Adam is frightened of Superman when they cross paths, believing the Man of Steel injured his father during the fight with Concussion a few issues back, but Cat assures the boy that Superman is a friend.

Though his doctors don’t believe him, Brainiac (a.k.a. Milton Fine) says he was possessed by an alien named Vril Dox during his rampage. Earlier in the issue, he explains Vril Dox’s backstory to Cat and Jimmy.

Lois meets with the parents of Combattor, revealed to be named Lawrence Chin, at their son’s funeral and attempts to convince them that Lex Luthor was behind the young man’s death—but while the Chins refuse to believe it, Lawrence’s younger brother agrees with Lois and passes her a note.

Friday, September 14, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1983

"HE-MAN MEETS RAM-MAN!" | "THE ORDEAL OF MAN-E-FACES!"
"THE TERROR OF TRI-KLOPS!" | "THE MENACE OF TRAP JAW!"
"THE TALE OF TEELA!" | "THE MAGIC STEALER!" | "THE POWER OF... POINT DREAD!"

Writer: Gary Cohn | Pencils: Mark Texeira
Inks: Tod Smith | Colors: Anthony Tollin

Following from the first round of "storybook style" 1982 minicomics by Don Glut and Alfredo Alcala, 1983 brings the first MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE pack-ins which can actually be called comic books. With Gary Cohn taking over writing chores from Glut, we also have Mark Texeira, who would come to prominence drawing GHOST RIDER in the nineties, turning in some of the earliest work of his career as artist.

Cohn and Texeira continue the setup established by Glut and Alcala, presenting Castle Grayskull as a mysterious edifice neutral to both good and evil, and giving us a fairly barren and lawless Eternia -- but they also provide glimpses of an established civilization, which the initial minicomics skipped. In 1982, a reader could've been forgiven for believing He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Teela, Skeletor, Beast Man, Mer-Man, and the Goddess were the only seven living beings on the planet. But now, thanks to Cohn fleshing out Glut's original vision, we see that's not the case.

The year's seven stories are mostly all devoted to spotlights on characters and/or vehicles introduced in 1983, with one minicomic explaining the origin of a 1982 character. The first outing, "He-Man Meets Ram-Man!", sees He-Man get into a skirmish with a bull-headed wanderer named Ram-Man. Skeletor then tricks Ram-Man into believing He-Man lives inside Castle Grayskull, and uses Ram-Man's power in an attempt to break into the fortress. But He-Man arrives and saves the day, and Ram-Man realizes he was in error when he took He-Man for an enemy. Right off the bat, this story gives us a look at the denizens of Eternia, as He-Man stops by a village during his journeys to save it from from a monster. We also see the Sorceress (alternately referred to as the Goddess in a couple of this year's tales), still depicted as Teela in her snake armor but presented as a different character, though she no longer has green skin as was the case in 1982.

Monday, September 10, 2018

ACTION COMICS #597 & SUPERMAN #15

“VISITOR”
Writer/Penciler: John Byrne | Inkers: Leonard Starr & Keith Williams
Colorist: Tom Ziuko | Letterer: John Costanza | Editor: Michael Carlin

The Plot: Following the Manhunters’ attack on Earth, Lois Lane travels to Smallville to investigate Lana Lang. She discovers the crashed Manhunter ship on Lana’s property and finds Lana and Superman chatting behind the house. The trio goes inside, where Lois asks Superman point blank if he is Clark Kent. Clark’s parents arrive just then and spin a tale about discovering Kal-El’s rocket and raising the child in secret alongside their son, Clark. Furious, Lois leaves.

Clark shows up at the Smallville Hotel to speak with Lois, but she’s just as angry with him as with Superman. The next morning, Lana approaches Lois and takes her out to lunch to plead Clark’s case. Later, back in Metropolis, Lois visits Jose Delgado in the hospital, and Superman shows up as well. Lois departs, giving the Man of Steel the cold shoulder.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Lois travels to Smallville for the first time in this issue and meets Lana and Jonathan and Martha while there. Superman and Lana explain the MILLENNIUM storyline to Lois, and she agrees to sit on the story.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO

"G.I. Joe is the codename for America's daring, highly trained special
missions force. Its purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra,
a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world."
Thirty-five years ago this week, at least according to the sources I've found, G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO hit television airwaves in the form of a five-part miniseries event, created by Sunbow Productions in association with Marvel Productions, and serialized across a full week. Alternately known as "The Mass Device" and simply "A Real American Hero", the episodes were, I imagine, many kids' first exposure to G.I. Joe outside of the little plastic toys. Marvel had of course been publishing an ongoing JOE comic book for over a year at this point, but even with television commercials to advertise that series, a weekday syndicated cartoon would reach far more children far more easily than a comic.


I was too young for JOE at this point; being a few months shy of five years old in September of '83 -- so I would have missed the miniseries when it first aired. And, though G.I. Joe never floated my boat as a young child in the same way as the Transformers and He-Man, I did watch the subsequent year's "Revenge of Cobra" serial. But I didn't really become a fan and follower of JOE for several more years. It was actually when I was in middle school and my younger brother got into the toys that I began reading the comic book and watching the cartoon episodes wherever I could find them in syndication or at the video store. And our local store had a copy of "The MASS Device", which I rented several times.

Friday, September 7, 2018

HE-MAN MINICOMICS 1982

"HE-MAN AND THE POWER SWORD" | "KING OF CASTLE GRAYSKULL"
"BATTLE IN THE CLOUDS" | "THE VENGEANCE OF SKELETOR"

Written by: Donald F. Glut | Illustrated by: Alfredo Alcala

The first couple years of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE minicomics are an interesting curiosity in the property's history. I touched on this a bit when I looked at a graphic novel from the eighties called THE SUNBIRD LEGACY, which was sort of a transitional state from the early comics world to the more familiar setup with He-Man as an alter ego for Prince Adam, along with a generally more light-hearted/superheroic tone. But in these four earliest MASTERS tales, none of that was even remotely established.

These stories instead paint a drastically different picture of the planet Eternia than what most fans have come to expect thanks to the Filmation TV series. Here, Eternia is a wild, untamed world. He-Man is a barbarian who leaves his tribe to defend the planet from the forces of evil. Castle Grayskull, rather than being the benign source of He-Man's power, is a mysterious fortress, neutral to good and evil alike, but which holds the power to rule the planet. References are made to a "Great War", which turned Eternia into a wasteland. As a result, high technology is an unusual artifact of the past.

Now, I'd never trade away my memories of the Filmation cartoon, which I loved as a child (and really, I still like it quite a bit today). And as that same child, I never really warmed up to the early minicomics, different as they were from the TV show -- heck, even the later minicomics, which as we'll see generally hewed pretty closely to the Filmation setup, didn't always float my boat either due to smaller inconsistencies. But nowadays, there's room in my head for different interpretations of the He-Man mythos, and I actually really like this early minicomic continuity quite a bit. It's more of a post-apocalyptic dark fantasy than the straight science-fantasy that later interpretations would present.

Monday, September 3, 2018

WONDER WOMAN #12 & #13

“ECHOES OF THE PAST” | “DEMONPLAGUE”
Plot & Layouts: George Pérez | Script: Len Wein | Finishes: Bruce D. Patterson
Letters: John Costanza | Colors: Carl Gafford | Editor: Karen Berger

The Plot: (Issue 12) As Hippolyte descends into the caverns beneath Paradise Island, her daughter comes face-to-face with the woman for whom she was named, a redheaded American called Diana. Diana begins to explain the strange, intertwined history she shares with the princess, while elsewhere, Pan plots against Hippolyte, setting multiple obstacles against her. But, led by the vulture which brought her into the caves, Hippolyte proceeds on her way.

Soon, after Diana finishes her story to her namesake and departs, Pan appears and sends Wonder Woman off to the home of the Green Lanterns to aid them against the extraterrestrial Manhunters. Still on Earth, Hippolyte continues her trek and finds herself in the company of a massive Heracles, apparently changed to stone by some unknown force.

(Issue 13) Hippolyte continues her trek and comes across the form of Heracles, trapped as a living statue. Soon after, she finds the horned skull of Pan. Zeus and the other gods, observing Hippolyte’s quest, realize the Pan who has recently counseled Zeus is an imposter. Hermes fetches Diana from the Green Lantern citadel in California, returning her beneath Paradise Island to team up with her mother. The two battle several monsters and free Heracles, but countless demons escape as well.

Diana follows and traps the creatures within the amulet of Harmonia, which is then pulled—along with Diana—to Ares, who takes the amulet and disappears. Immediately after, Hermes appears and tasks Diana with one final challenge: to return to Man’s World and avenge his son, Pan, by finding and killing the Manhunter who took the horned god’s life and impersonated him.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

As promised not long ago, this fall will find us looking at a new toy tie-in series to replace the Transformers stuff I've read over the past four autumns. And stepping up to take over for Optimus Prime and friends is another beloved icon of the eighties: the most powerful man in the universe himself, He-Man.

A few years ago, I "Unboxed" Dark Horse's collection of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE minicomics, the little comic books that were packaged with the vintage action figures thirty-plus years back. Since then, I also bought a "backup copy" of the book in digital format during a Comixology Dark Horse sale at some point. Thus, armed with the book in both physical and virtual format, I'm ready to read it. Beginning this Saturday and continuing over the subsequent few weeks, we'll examine the He-Man minicomics by year, from 1982 through 1987 -- the full run of the original toyline.

But that's not all! Once the minicomic retrospective wraps up in October, we'll crack open another tome I picked up some time back (and also re-purchased in digital format later on) -- HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: THE NEWSPAPER COMIC STRIPS. Unlike the minicomics, which I read as a child and of which I retain some hazy memories, the newspaper strip is an iteration of MASTERS that I've never seen in my life. But my He-Man fandom and my recently developed interest in newspaper adventure strips have intersected to make this something I'm really excited to read.

The strips are broken apart into story arcs in the book, so we'll read two arcs per week, starting in October and running through November. After that, I have one more thing in mind to close out the year -- but we'll get to that when the time comes. For now, we're off to the distant planet Eternia to check out the never-ending struggle between He-Man and Skeletor.